Safe staffing: What nurses really want

By Carrie Mortrud, RN 

How will most nurses be honored during National Nurses Week, which begins May 6? Unfortunately, the scenario looks too much like this:

Carrie Mortrud, RN

Carrie Mortrud, RN

Cold pizza? It’s cold because you got a direct admit the minute the delivery person showed up. Stale cake? Stale because no one had time to cover it back up because there was a patient who tried eloping (leaving) and you had to put the unit on lock down. How about an invisible water bottle? Invisible because you can’t find it, someone moved it looking for supplies, thrashing and throwing things around desperately looking for an oximeter because her patient looks an odd color of blue/gray. Flowers— that’s it nice spring flowers—oh wait, can’t have anything that smells good as there are too many fragrance sensitivities.

These gestures are nice, but what nurses really want are more nurses so they can go back to doing nursing care. They want the right number of nurses on the unit at all times so that they can deliver nursing care the patients need.

For nurses, we like to imagine a shift where report is calm and the day shift doesn’t have a list of 15 tasks they didn’t get to because night shift was too overwhelmed. We imagine a day that vital signs and head-to-toe assessments actually were done before dinner. We hope for a day where every patient’s medications are administered on time, safely without error, without misstep, without difficulty.

We imagine every mobile patient was taken for a walk and progressed in his activity level and every immobile patient was turned every two hours as ordered by the physician or nurse practitioner. And we wish we had time to talk with a heart disease patient’s wife about how she will be able to care for her husband at home, and offer ideas on a schedule to have family and friends come help and ease her fears about their future ahead while at home recovering, knowing she would much rather just have him stay a few days longer, “just to be sure he’s ready”.

How about for Nurses Week nurses get what truly would make them feel appreciated, listened to, and respected—the staff they need and asked for. I dare any hospital to staff their hospital up to the budget grid, matrix, or plan that they already have and then add one or two more per unit.  Just for the week.  See what happens? Patients receive the quality care they deserve. Nurses can do the job they were meant to do. This is what nurses like to imagine…this is what nurses really want for National Nurses Week and every day thereafter.

Patient Story

arlene townsend staffing award

Unsafe staffing costs a Florida facility $1 billion

From Trial Magazine, March 2014 issue: Trial Magazine, 3/11/14 VERDICTS & SETTLEMENTS Arlene Townsend, 63 suffered a stroke and required 24-hour care. She was admitted to Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center, a nursing home owned by Trans Healthcare, Inc. In the three years leading up to her death, Townsend suffered numerous fall resulting in broken bones and lacerations, infections, significant weight loss, chronic constipation, skin breakdowns, dehydration, and other problems. She is survived by her adult son. Townsend’s estate sued Trans Healthcare, alleging that it had understaffed the nursing home to increase profits and failed to provide adequate care, including protecting Townsend from falls, ensuring a safe environment, and documenting changes to her condition. The court entered a judgment of liability against the defendant, and the…
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